Bill Nowlin is author of more than 40 books, most of them Red Sox-related. He’s written several books on Ted Williams, including Ted Williams at War and 521: The Story of Ted Williams’ Home Runs. A co-founder of Rounder Records, Bill still lives within five miles of Fenway Park.
Boston has always been one of the better cities for baseball, and from 1901 through 1952 it was (with Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and St. Louis) a city that hosted two Major League teams.
The National League team, which began as the Boston Red Stockings and became the Beaneaters and the Braves, were frequent champions, finishing first in the league 12 times in the 27 years from 1872 through 1898. As the twentieth century opened, though, it was a different story altogether.
Both teams dominated their respective leagues in the regular season—the White Sox by nine games and the Giants by 10 games. The World Series opened at Chicago’s Comiskey Park on Saturday, October 6. The pitchers were knuckleballer Eddie Cicotte for Chicago and Slim Sallee for New York, though as was often the custom at the time, the identities of the starters were kept secret as long as possible.
In 1916, John McGraw’s New York Giants had finished in fourth place, but they dominated in 1917. Only the Cincinnati Reds gave them trouble in head-to-head matchups, both teams winning 11 games. All the way through June, however, the Giants had to fight to maintain first place. Only once (on May 17) did they have a lead as large as three games. On 10 days they were tied for first, but most of the time they were in second place—though very close (some 14 days saw them in second by only half a game).
Coming off a decade when the Boston Red Sox won four world championships in a seven-year stretch (1912, 1915, 1916, and 1918), the Sox entered the 1920s never having been beaten for a World Series title. With their win in the first World Series ever played (1903) and the 1904 season when the National League’s New York Giants refused to play them in the postseason, they’d been a dynasty.
Umpires appropriately prefer to stay out of the limelight. The game is, after all, not about them. They are rarely recognized as they arrive at the ballpark maybe 90 minutes before game time.
During an interview with Ted Barrett and his crew during a visit to officiate a series between the Seattle Mariners and Boston Red Sox, it came out that Barrett was one of a select number of umpires who have earned advanced degrees.
With World War II over, all the ballplayers who had been in military service (and who were able) returned to their various teams. For the 1946 Boston Red Sox, that meant players such as Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky, Dom DiMaggio, and Tex Hughson, to name a few. After four years of war, fans were ready for baseball without battle news dominating the front pages.
Throughout the history of baseball, there are recurrent myths and legends, and heartwarming stories, too. Many of them are even true.
Cynicism aside, it really does make us feel good when we read about a ballplayer who visits a child dying of cancer, a star who brightens the day of a family enveloped by gloom.
Jim “Zipper” Zapp played a big role in getting the Birmingham Black Barons to the 1948 World Series against the Homestead Grays—the last time there was a World Series in the Negro Leagues. The season had seen a young rookie named Willie Mays spell him in the second game of a doubleheader. Zapp was a big right-handed outfielder, standing 6 feet, 2 or 3 inches and weighing 215 to 230 pounds.